IN GOD'S PROMISE OF A SON
Called by God from Haran
Abraham Justified by Faith
Isaac is born
YET, WITH RESPECT TO THE PROMISE
OF GOD HE DID NOT WAVER IN UNBELIEF: eis de ten epaggelian tou theou ou
diekrithe (3SAPI) te apistia: (Nu 11:13-23; 2Ki 7:2,19; 2Chr
20:15-20; Isa 7:9; Jer 32:16-27; Luke 1:18,45)
“did not doubt the promise of God (of a son, an heir) by unbelief”.
Paul is not saying
that Abraham never had momentary hesitations, but that he avoided a
deep-seated, permanent attitude of distrust in the promises of God.
Abraham believed God in the face of discouraging facts and despite the
knowledge that what God had promised could not happen naturally. In fact
Paul says Abraham actually grew stronger in faith as time passed.
(epaggelia form epí = intensifier or upon + aggéllo
= tell, declare) describes an
announcement made with certainty as to its performance. In secular
Greek it was primarily a legal term denoting summons or a promise to do
or give something. In the NT, epaggelia is with rare exception (except
Acts 23:21) used only of the promises
of God, referring to a thing promised, gift or graciously given, and not
a pledge secured by negotiation
(ou) absolute negation. He absolutely did not waver.
(diakrino from diá = separation + kríno = judge,
decide) means literally to separate one from another.
diakrino means to distinguish, discern, judge, decide, and came to
mean to be divided in one’s mind, to hesitate and to doubt. In the
present verse diakrino means to to think that something may not
be true or certain and thus to waver, doubt or be divided in one's own
mind. In a number of languages `doubt' is expressed by means of idioms,
for example, `to have two thoughts' or `to think only perhaps' or `to
believe only a little' or `to question one's heart about.'
explains diakrino, noting that it...
properly signifies to be parted, or
to be divided into two men, one affirming, the other denying; one hoping
and giving himself up, the other waiting to see: “but in regard to the
promise, there was no division in him.” (Godet, F: The Epistle of St
Paul to the Romans)
The idea of
diakrino is that Abraham was not divided, did not vacillate between
two opinions, between belief and unbelief or between faith and doubt
like many believers do. When from the human viewpoint things are going
well, it is easy to trust God. But when things seem impossible, it is
often easier to not to trust Him.
misunderstand. A struggling faith is not necessarily a doubting faith,
any more than temptation to sin is not actually sin. Tests of our faith
are designed to strengthen our faith, not to strip us of faith. Abraham
was tested as few have been tested and his faith grew as a result.
If you are being
tested and struggling in your faith don't be discouraged. John
Calvin put it well when he said that believers...
“are never so enlightened that there
are no remains of ignorance, nor is the heart so established that there
are no misgivings.”
from a = without + pistós = believing, faithful) (Click
word study on
apistia) means literally not believing
= faithlessness, distrust, lack of belief. It describes an unwillingness
to commit oneself to another or respond positively to the other’s words
Faith turns from natural impossibilities to rely upon
the word of God. Faith therefore becomes the instrument of man’s part in
putting him into definite relationship with God Himself.
Abraham’s faith was not perfect, just as no believer’s faith is
perfect. The first test he had to face was a famine in Canaan, and
Abraham went to Egypt for help instead of to God. That disobedience put
him in a compromising situation with the Pharaoh. He claimed that his
beautiful wife was his sister, fearing that the Pharaoh might kill him
in order to have her for himself. In so doing, Abraham dishonored the
Lord and caused plagues to come upon the pharaoh’s family
(Ge 12:10-17).Despite his spiritual imperfection, Abraham always came
back to the Lord in faith, and the Lord honored that faith and continued
to renew his promises to Abraham.
The Lord gave repeated assurances to Abraham, and Abraham responded in
faith, which God “reckoned ... to him as righteousness” (Ge 15:6). But
again, when testing came, he relied on his own judgment rather than the
Lord’s word. When Sarah was getting beyond normal childbearing age and
remained barren, Abraham took her foolish advice and took matters into
his own hands. He committed adultery with Hagar, Sarah’s maid, in the
hope of having a male heir by her. But (as always happens with
disobedience) his disobedient act
backfired and again caused misery to the innocent (Ge 16:1-15). He also
brought future misery to his own descendants, with whom the Arab
descendants of Ishmael, the son by Hagar, would be in continuous
conflict, as they are to this day.
Despite his spiritual imperfection,
Abraham always came back to the Lord in faith, and the Lord honored that
faith and continued to renew his promises to Abraham. God miraculously
caused Sarah to bear a son in her old age, the son whom God had promised
to give Abraham. And when the greatest test of all came, Abraham did not
waver in his trust of the Lord.
When God commanded him to sacrifice
Isaac, the only human means through which the promise could be
fulfilled, Abraham responded with immediate obedience, and God responded
by providing a substitute for Isaac (Ge 22:1-18 Heb 11:17-19). As is
always the case with true belief, the Holy Spirit enlightened Abraham’s
mind and heart to recognize the true and only God, and enabled him to
respond in faith. Abraham saw the Promised Land and wandered through it
as a nomad, but he never possessed it. Even his descendants did not
possess the land until more than a half century after the promise of it
was first given.
Just as Abraham trusted God’s word
to give him a land he had never seen, he trusted God’s power to raise
Isaac from the dead, if necessary by a divine miracle he had never seen.
tells the story of...
Two travelers on their way home came
to a river frozen over, but evidently not as yet with thick ice. One
said, "I am afraid that ice will not bear my weight, " and he sat down
in the cold. The other said, "I am going home, " and strode forward over
the ice with steady step. He had committed himself! He refused to look
at circumstances; and every step strengthened his resolve to go ahead.
He reached the other bank, and eventually his home. The other man stayed
back in the cold.
Mr. Moody used to say, "Unbelief sees
something in God's hand, and says, I wish I had that. Faith sees it, and
says, I will have it!-and gets it."
As one has said "The steps of faith
fall upon the seeming void, And find the rock beneath!" (Romans 4)
BUT GREW STRONG IN FAITH GIVING GLORY TO GOD:
all enedunamothe (3SAPI) te pisteidous (AAPMSN)
doxan to theo: (Isa 35:4; Da 10:19; 11:32; Hag 2:4; Zech
8:9,13; 1Cor 16:13; 2Cor 12:10; Eph 6:10; 2Ti 2:1) (Ro 1:21; Isa 61:3)
(alla) is more strongly adversative than the usual Greek
conjunction (de) for "but". It could be rendered "But quite to the
writes that but (alla)...
forcibly contrasts the idea of the
strength drawn from the promise with the weakness arising from doubt.
from en = in + dunamóo
for word study on
endunamoo) in simple terms means "to
put power in" (like a car needs gas for power) and so to make strong,
vigorous, to strengthen, or to be strengthened, enabled or empowered
inwardly. This word is found only in biblical and ecclesiastical Greek.
The idea is to cause one to be able to function or do something.
Dunamóo is derived from
dúnamis which means to be able or to have power (Click
for in depth word study of
dunamis). Dúnamis refers to
inherent strength residing in a thing by virtue of its nature. The best
spiritual example is the "gospel" which is the inherent, omnipotent
power of God operating in the salvation of a lost soul that accepts it.
Abe was strengthened. Note
describing the effect of his faith growing stronger signifies that the
growth come from outside
himself, ultimately from God the Source of our faith.
Morris comments on the strengthening of Abraham noting that...
The verb was strengthened is
in the New Testament more often than in the active, which accords with
the fact that the believer’s strength is derivative. I have reservations
about translations like “his faith filled him with power” (GNB) or “he
grew strong” (RSV). Paul is not saying that faith, so to speak, took a
weak Abraham and put strength into him. He is saying that God took a
weak Abraham and put strength into him. Abraham was made strong because
of his faith indeed, but it was God, not faith, that provided the
strength. Faith was no more than the means by which he received it. The
Greek may be understood as “he was strengthened in his faith” (his faith
grew stronger), or “he was strengthened through his faith”. Either way
it was God who gave the strength. (Morris,
L. The Epistle to the Romans. W. B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press)
is synonymous with trust or belief and is the conviction of the truth of
anything, but in Scripture usually speaks of belief respecting man's
relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea
of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it. As pistis
relates to God, it is the conviction that God exists and is the Creator
and Ruler of all things well as the Provider and Bestower of eternal
salvation through Christ. For Abraham, faith was a trust in God to
fulfill His promises.
from natural impossibilities to rely upon the word of God and the
promises of God. Adverse circumstances did not stand in the way of
Abraham’s faith. What an example to every believer of every age.
an interesting note on "faith" writing that...
Some people are under the impression
that when a person has “faith” he inwardly agrees to ignore the facts.
They see faith and facts as mutually exclusive. Faith without reason is
fideism; reason without faith is rationalism. In practice there must be
no reduction of faith to reason. Likewise, there must be no reduction of
reason to faith. Biblical faith is a composite of the two. Abraham did
not take an unreasonable leap of faith. (Hughes,
R. K. Romans: Righteousness from heaven. Preaching the Word. Wheaton,
Ill.: Crossway Books)
supreme manifestation of faith is seen in Genesis 22 and recounted in
Hebrews 11 where we read that...
By faith Abraham, when he was tested,
offered up Isaac; and he who had received the promises was offering up
his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, "IN ISAAC YOUR
DESCENDANTS SHALL BE CALLED." He considered that God is able to raise
men even from the dead; from which he also received him back as a type.
(see notes on
(doxa) means that which gives a proper opinion of. Abraham gave a
"proper opinion" of God, to His faithfulness to fulfill His covenant
promises, becoming an example to all who would believe after him.
agrees writing that...
To give glory to God means in
Scripture, to render homage either by word or deed, to one or other of
God's attributes, or to His perfection in general. Wherein, in this
case, did the homage consist? The apostle tells us in Ro 4:21: in the
firm conviction which he cherished of God's faithfulness to His word and
of His power to fulfil it. (Ibid)
to God means ascribing to God what is due to Him, Abraham's
actions standing in stark contrast to the attitude and actions of
unregenerate men Paul described in Romans 1...
For even though they knew God, they
did not honor (literally glorify = doxazo) Him as God, or
give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their
foolish heart was darkened. (See note
relying upon the word of God, acknowledged the attributes of God, and
thus adopted a right attitude toward Him. This is the immediate effect
of faith. Believing God affirms His existence and character and thus gives Him
Godly faith glorifies God; the One
who gives faith receives all the credit. Conversely, any faith that does
not glorify God is not of or from Him. Faith in God, because it affirms
His trustworthy character, is the supreme way that men glorify Him,
while without faith, any attempt to worship, praise, or honor Him is a
worthless, self-righteous sham. (MacArthur,
J: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press)
Abraham's faith was made strong. Faith grows. Jesus said it would. If
you have faith like a tiny little grain of mustard seed, but the object
of your faith is trustworthy and has promised to do something, then
exercise your faith and it will grow. Obey. Abraham did; and as he
believed and obeyed, he was strengthened in his faith and he gave glory
to God. Faith never glorifies man. It glorifies God. It is God who acts,
not we. What is accomplished is not something we do on behalf of God. It
is God Who does it by us and through us, on his own behalf. God,
therefore, is thanked and God is glorified. So faith grows, and faith
One of the times
of many that Abraham gave glory to God is recorded in Genesis 17 where
Genesis 17:1 Now when Abram was
ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am
God Almighty (El Shaddai); Walk before Me, and be blameless.
2 "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will
multiply you exceedingly."
3 And Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying,
4 "As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you shall be the
father of a multitude of nations.
Abraham, by relying upon the word
of God, acknowledged the attributes of God (El Shaddai = God Almighty =
All Sufficient) and thus adopted a right attitude toward Him. This is the
immediate effect of faith. Keep in mind also that the primary purpose of
the gospel is not to save men but to glorify God.
The psalmist, like Abraham, also
gives glory to El Shaddai
"He who dwells in the shelter of the
Most High (see
study of El Elyon)
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty (Shaddai). I will
say to Jehovah, "My Refuge and my Fortress, My God, in Whom I trust!"
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper, and from
the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, (the
terminal section of a bird’s wing ) and under His wings you may
seek refuge His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark." (Ps
Oh, what wonder!
Jesus, glorious King of kings,
Deigns to call me His beloved,
Lets me rest beneath His wings
William Newell (Ibid)
has an interesting analysis of the progressive revelation of God's
character to Abraham noting that...
There was a seven-fold revelation of
God to Abraham:
First, it was as "the God
of glory" that He appeared first in Ur of the Chaldees (Acts 7:2).
Second, He revealed Himself to
him as Jehovah (Ge 12:8; 14:22; 15:2, 8), although not opening to
him, as afterwards to Moses in Israel the meaning of that Name (Ex
Third, as El Elyon, God
Most High, "Possessor of heaven and earth": and the Disposer of lands,
and kings: (Ge 14:19-22; Dan 3:26; 4.2; 5:18,21);
Fourth, as Lord
(Adonai, Jehovah-Ge 15:2,8);
Fifth, as El Shaddai,
the Almighty God (Ge 17:1);
Sixth, as "the Everlasting
God" (Ge 21:33);
Seventh, as Jehovah-Jireh"
(Ge 22:14): The God who will Provide, -Especially, a Lamb for sacrifice
Applying this section,
we need to remember that if God is Who He says He is (and of
course He is), none of His "precious and magnificent promises" will fail
because He forgets us or He thinks that our situation is beyond His
power. Our problem too often is that we have these wavering doubts and
suspicions that what we say we believe about God’s power is not really
true. We say like the coin "in God we trust" but we live our lives
relying primarily upon what we can do ourselves. If you find yourself
caught in this spider web of doubt, look again at the promises and
truths we have already believed about God. As someone has said a good
measure of how much spiritual truth we have appropriated is how long is
our worry list is!